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Second Hong Kong venue denies it will host dissident Chinese writer Ma Jian

A second venue has said it will not host a book talk by dissident Chinese writer Ma Jian, two days after the original venue – Central’s Tai Kwun art space – cancelled his events.

The Annex, a contemporary event and exhibition space at Nan Fung Place in Central, was originally named by the organiser as a replacement venue, but it denied any connection to the event on Friday.

The Annex

The Annex. Photo: The Annex website.

“The Annex will not be the hosting venue for the captioned event and we have no affiliation with the event nor the author,” the venue told HKFP.

The Annex is owned by Nan Fung Group, a property developer led by former Financial Secretary Antony Leung.

Ma was scheduled to appear at two events at Hong Kong International Literary Festival on Saturday, but Tai Kwun cancelled on Thursday, saying that it did not want the venue to “become a platform to promote the political interests of any individual.”

Ma Jian

Ma Jian. Photo: Ma Jian Twitter.

One of Ma’s talks was to promote his new novel, China Dream, which its publisher described as a “biting satire of totalitarianism” in China.

HKFP has reached out to the Hong Kong International Literary Festival for comment.

Ma previously said on Twitter that he would arrive in Hong Kong at around 5pm on Friday, and was still planning to attend festival events: “It would have been easy not to go, to avoid difficult questions. But more and more it seems to me that in literature, there is nowhere to hide,” he wrote.

Tai Kwun

Tai Kwun. Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

“Writers have to look at the wider picture, and search for answers to every difficult question they are asked,” he added.

Convener of the pro-democracy camp Claudia Mo said the Annex’s cancellation was another example of a chilling effect.

“Antony Leung or other business types, [there is] no difference. The Carrie Lam government has successfully put up a cloud of fear above their heads, that you need to be “politically correct” to survive in Hong Kong,” Mo said.

China Dream

Photo: Ma Jian via Twitter.

Lawmaker Au nok-hin told HKFP that there is a phenomenon of people silencing themselves in Hong Kong.

“I believe the venue hosts are very afraid of pressure from the regime,” he said.

Protest against Tai Kwun

Democratic Party lawmaker Ted Hui led a protest at Tai Kwun on Friday, saying that Tai Kwun’s management – the Hong Kong Jockey Club – either “overreacted” and censored themselves, or were facing political pressure.

“Any dissident in the future will receive the message that Tai Kwun and the Hong Kong Jockey Club do not welcome dissidents, or any people who have opinions different from the Chinese Communist regime,” Hui said.

Hui added that he was not convinced by the explanation offered by Tai Kwun, who said they wanted to avoid promoting any individual’s political interests.

“It’s not about promoting his or any political groups’ interest. He is not creating a platform, or getting involved in politics. His talk is mainly about literature itself,” he said.

Ted Hui Tai Kwun protest

Ted Hui (centre) protests Tai Kwun’s cancellation of Ma Jian’s book talk. Photo: Holmes Chan/HKFP.

Hui vowed to follow up on the incident in the legislature, noting that Tai Kwun was partly funded by taxpayers and should not practise censorship.

Clarification 21:11: A previous version of this article stated that the Annex pulled out of hosting Ma. The Annex has denied that it was confirmed as host.

Second Hong Kong venue denies it will host dissident Chinese writer Ma Jian